Children in Ipoh know Au Young Keen Kiew, 42, simply as “Au Young the Clown”.
The engineer by profession with a degree in mineral and petroleum engineering didn’t go into clowning by design.
Au Young recalled, “It was some time in 2008. I was entered as a participant in a talent contest during our corporate dinner. Without any special talent, in desperation, I managed to coax a friend to teach me balloon twisting. He taught me three shapes; dog, sword and heart.
“But I felt it was too simple. I subsequently found someone to teach me basic stage magic, which I performed at the talent show.”
With his new found skill in balloon twisting, Au Young had the chance to practise when he was engaged to entertain the crowds at many an election campaign and dinner pre-2008 General Election.
Over these past few years, Au Young continued to improve on his balloon sculpting, upgraded on his clowning and magic skills and took up juggling, uni-cycling, mascoting, party planning and event management, apart from collecting and modifying three Volkswagen Kombis to be used according to the occasion.
Referring to his collection of Volkswagens, Au Young said, “I like vintage items. I am also on the lookout for a Vespa to add to my collection of vehicles that carry the number plate AU.”
Of his many performances, the most unique that Au Young has mastered thus far is his giant balloon act which he only performs on rare occasions.
In that act, he enthrals his audience by stuffing himself into a giant blown-up balloon, changing into funny head gears inside and then surprise his audience by popping his head out as a different character, all the while racing against time before the balloon deflates.
From a hobby that was born out of passion, the all-round entertainer Au Young now makes it his mission to bring happiness to as many people as possible, irrespective of age, race or religion. In fact, Au Young is a popular figure at religious festivals in Chinese, Hindu and Sikh temples.
Even though over the years Au Young discovered that people do not have much respect for clowns, he still finds joy in putting smiles on the faces of the people he comes in contact with.
Explained Au Young, “Since I took up clowning, I am better at handling stress. Through it, I am an improved person. My friends say I am reborn. I am happy when my audiences are. I forget my own pain and tiredness when they enjoy my performances. And this is the feeling that drives me to continue with what I am doing now. In fact, I plan to keep performing for as long as I physically can.”
As for now, Au Young is assisted by his wife Ann, who has also mastered the art of balloon sculpting and face painting. His 11-year-old son, Peter, who began as Au Young’s assistant when he was 7, is now much sought-after to perform at children’s birthday parties. Despite his young age, he is already well-versed in clowning, magic and ballooning, with special interest in juggling and uni-cycling.
Au Young shared, “We are a family of performers and as the current Chairman of the newly-formed Perak Clowning Association, I hope that the industry will grow. It is my hope that we can build a solid network for clowns in Malaysia to work together.”
Au Young feels lucky for the chance to share knowledge with international clowns who are not stingy with their techniques. He continued, “I also try to participate in as many clowning workshops and conventions as possible, and through these well-structured programmes, my family and I have learnt a lot, plus had opportunities to perform in Singapore and Shanghai, China.”
As a way of giving back to the community, every year during Chinese New Year, Au Young gets a few of his friends together to perform at selected orphanages or senior citizens’ homes to bring cheer to the inmates during the festive season.
“I love to make the old folk happy, just as much as the young kids, who are so innocent and could be very blunt in their opinions,” laughed Au Young, whose most memorable assignment was a party for a deceased man.
It looks like happiness from a clown doesn’t cut across the barriers of age, race, religion and culture only.
Note: An edited version of this article [Clowning By Chance] was published on 29th November, 2014 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.
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